Working Smart: Minimizing Infectious Risk

Well, cold and flu season has arrived, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to share with you steps that I take to protect my health and wellness during the winter months.

The first rule of heart transplant is to avoid large crowds, especially during winter months. I, like all organ recipients, am immune compromised [and] at increased risk of infection. You may not realize it, but organ transplant recipients take anti-rejection medications every 12 hours which suppresses our immune systems. We will take these medications for the rest of our lives, so we are mindful of infectious exposures.

Illness is something recipients take very seriously and rightfully so.

So, here we go with my best tips, tricks, and props for preventing illness.

The Little Year Round Things:

  • Using my elbow to push the elevator call and floor buttons
  • Using my back to push open doors, pushing the handicap door open button with my elbow, or asking the person I am with to get the door
  • Carrying and using hand sanitizer and being poised and ready with it when teen-son gets in the car from school or being out and about with friends
  • Avoid using handrails; I’d much rather take beloved’s hand
  • Using a paper towel to turn off the water in public restrooms
  • Annual flu shot for me and my family

Sick Family Members:

I’ve been asked if I move into a hotel when either my husband or our teen son gets sick and the answer is no; however, we do take precautions. Since I need to be able to move freely throughout the house, whoever is sick is confined to a different room whether which means my husband lives in the basement and his office when he is sick [and] our son stays in his room until the contagious period has passed.

In addition, if symptoms are consistent with the flu, then that person goes and gets swabbed within 24 hours so that Tamiflu can be started for both of us. My respiratory system is compromised already from high dose radiation as a child for childhood cancer; I do not need the flu or subsequent pneumonia on top of it.

Is going to get swabbed convenient or fun? No. Is it easy to ask a houseguest to go get tested when they are miserably sick? No. Is it necessary? Yes. The benefits far outweigh the potential costs should I become infected with the flu.

This is our family protocol, and we abide by it without fail.

Handicapped Parking Permit:

Yes, I have a handicapped parking permit [and] yes, I use it under certain circumstances. Those circumstances include extreme heat/humidity and extremely cold temperatures. I try my best not to take the last handicapped parking space.

Most organ recipients are eligible for handicapped parking permits. Simply ask your primary care provider for the necessary paperwork.

Be prepared for the looks, and sometimes glares, you will get because you don’t look sick or handicapped. This used to bother me quite a bit, but I can’t be bothered with their looks, glares, and judgments. That’s their problem, not mine.

Air Travel:

I rarely fly October through the end of March; however, when I do I take Clorox wipes in my carry on and wipe down all surfaces. I also try to choose a seat that doesn’t have anyone seated beside me though that is rarely possible.

You’ll also want to check out barrier method scarves.

Grocery Shopping:

Click Here


It is rare that I go to the movies as I think there are very few movies worth the price tag these days, but when I do, I go to a matinee: fewer people, less exposure, cheaper prices and still a good time!

Library Books: yes, people do still go to the library!

Use the search and reserve online option.

The librarian will pull the books for you, then you can just pop in and check them out.

Need to renew? Easy peasy just do it online.

Need to return? Drop them in the dropbox.


I learned something when I voted in the recent mid-term elections. If standing for long periods of time or being in a large crowd in a small space is not in the best interest of your health, then notify a precinct volunteer, and you will be seated while your paperwork is expedited to get you in and out as quickly as possible.

I share this not because I utilize it on a regular basis, but for those of you who truly would benefit from this knowledge. I did use it this election as even early voting was quite crowded.

Church Attendance:

We are fortunate to live in an area where you can find a church service to meet your needs and your schedule. We switch to a less attended weekend service to avoid the crowds, and there are times when we take a season away from church, especially if it is a particularly bad flu season.

Quick to Nap [and] Early to Bed:

When tired, I nap.

When dog tired, I go to bed.

Have a healthy sleep routine which I don’t, but I am working towards it.

I have a reading chair in my room that I try to sit in when I am reading or working on my laptop. I keep my books on the table beside my reading chair.

On my nightstand, I have one of our wedding pictures, a small jewelry bowl, and a lamp. Because I use my phone as my alarm, I charge it overnight on my nightstand.

I also have an essential oil diffuser in our bedroom [and] I diffuse lavender, on guard, and either ylang ylang or frankincense to lull me to sleep. I also have an ECHO dot, so I usually fall asleep to one of my favorite playlists.

These are recent changes for me as I decided that our bedroom needed to be sacred space and used for the purposes it was designed rather than every activity under the sun. If I am having an off day, then I get what I need and work from the daybed or at the kitchen table downstairs on the main level where I diffuse lemon and peppermint to wake up my mind [and] sharpen my focus.

Let me close out this post by saying, I am not complaining. This is my reality: nothing more, nothing less.

PS Handwashing remains the #1 way to prevent the spread of infection.

PPS I don’t do any of this perfectly. I am mindful, but not obsessive, flexible, not rigid, and selective as I balance risks against benefits in all things.

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